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Chris Pronger

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Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke should have uttered one phrase to explain the situation, one simple little phrase to envelope the reasoning for the Phil Kessel trade;

“Our picks in our vision of where we ended up are overvalued in accordance to the available crop of prospects.”

But in Toronto, to admit that in what’s deemed as a ‘rebuild’ would have been a PR disaster.

Despite popular opinion, he wasn’t wrong.

The world is no longer flat, it’s round .. like a full-cirle

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Now that the NHL has won the arbitration award based on “salary cap circumvention” with the Kovalchuk situation, they are ready to tackle the rest of the league. A year (and perhaps in a few occasions more than a year) ago, specific contracts were approved by the league and now the league has decided to reevaluate those contracts to determine if they too circumvent the salary cap.

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If leaked reports are to be believed the NHLPA is preparing to file a grievance pertaining to the NHL’s rejection of the unprecedented 17 year, $102 million contract filed last week by the New Jersey Devils for Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk. The report suggests that even if the Devils and Kovalchuk can agree on a restructured deal, the NHLPA may still decide to file a grievance in a preventative effort for future contracts.

The latter part is particularly significant for those who have been viewing the leagues rejection of the initial contract as an act of political posturing in the face of the PA’s on-going power struggle and an attempt at drawing a line in the sand.

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Maybe it was indicative of how fragile the Leafs psyche had become after relinquishing such an unexpectedly high draft pick to the Bruins, or maybe it was just a reaction to the mid-summer boredom brought upon as the Kovalchuk saga stop-gaped the NHL trade wires, but the recent trade rumours surrounding Luke Schenn suggests a seismic shift has taken place in Leafs Nation with regards to the future and how to obtain long sought after success.

One that seems to have embraced a cap defiant means of rebuilding in an age of tank-to-win.

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From USA Today - 3/1/2007:

Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke has always been among the NHL’s most colorful wheeler dealers. In 2005-06, he overhauled his team midseason and made a strong playoff run. Last summer, he made a major swap to land franchise defenseman Chris Pronger. Heading into Tuesday’s trade deadline, Burke hoped to make a major splash. He was able to make one deal, but he was unable to land one of the premium forwards. This is his diary of his efforts to make the major deadline deal:

Wednesday, Feb. 7

We’re interested in Peter Forsberg, but when Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren calls I tell him we aren’t trading (first-round pick) Bobby Ryan. We go through a package and I reject several names, including Corey Perry. I say, “No.” Homer and I are fishing buddies, and he jokingly says he wants to help us win the Stanley Cup by trading me Forsberg. I say, “We’re out,” and Homer says he wants me to stay in.

Thursday, Feb. 8

Homer and I talk again on Forsberg and this time he talks about Perry again. He tells me that he has a better offer on the table than Perry and a high pick. I say Perry isn’t going anywhere. We discuss multiple names to go with the high pick and they ask for specific players (Perry, Ilya Bryzgalov, Chris Kunitz). I like Homer and want him to succeed, but I’m thinking we would be better off looking at Todd Bertuzzi and the possibility of landing another defenseman. But (Florida GM/coach) Jacques Martin isn’t shopping Bertuzzi yet. We are looking at defensemen around the league who could end up being available —Brent Sopel, Brad Stuart and Sami Salo. But I think Vancouver is trying to re-sign Salo.

Friday, Feb. 9

I speak to Los Angeles about Sopel. Trying to trade is like playing musical chairs. You are always afraid you aren’t going to have a chair at the end. You worry that if you say no on one deal, you may not get any. Also, there is a “keeping up with the Joneses mentality,” particularly in the Western Conference. Players, coaches and fans want you to add. The allure of making the right trade draws you in. Remember last season when Edmonton was on the verge of missing the playoffs, made some deals, including getting goalie Dwayne Roloson, and they go to the Finals. It’s the most pressure you face all year, and it’s also the most fun you have.

Saturday, Feb. 10

Phoenix offered me Ladislav Nagy for a first-round pick. I call Doug MacLean about the possibility of acquiring Fredrik Modin. He says he’s trying to re-sign him. One of my problems in trying to make a deal is that I don’t have a first-round pick. I’m thinking I could move defenseman Shane O’Brien to get a first-round pick.

Sunday, Feb. 11

I think Tampa Bay’s (GM) Jay Feaster is interested in O’Brien. Homer calls and tells me that two teams are offering two first-round picks and a player for Forsberg, and another team is offering a first, second and another pick. To me, this is too rich for our blood. I think it’s too high of a price for a rental player.

Tuesday, Feb. 13

Feaster tells me he is interested only in hockey deals, not rentals. I have a long talk with St. Louis Blues President John Davidson about Keith Tkachuk. They want Bobby Ryan in a package.

Wednesday, Feb. 14

Officially turn down the Blues. Vancouver GM Dave Non-is, my former assistant, tells me he is going to re-sign Salo. New York Rangers GM Glen Sather tells me he’s not a seller, at least not yet.

Thursday, Feb. 15

Forsberg goes to Nashville. Homer was frustrated with me. He said I didn’t know the marketplace. But I have to give him a lot of credit. He really helped the Flyers with that deal. Tampa Bay offers goalie Gerald Coleman and a second for O’Brien. We want a first- round pick.

Saturday, Feb. 17

I talk to Florida assistant GM Randy Sexton about Todd Bertuzzi, and he tells me “the guy we like is Perry.” I offer him profanity. If you are offended by profanity, it’s difficult to make a trade in the NHL. If you are going to try to rob me, at least wear a mask. We talk to Philadelphia about Kyle Calder.

Monday, Feb. 19

At the general managers meetings in Naples, Fla., Feaster sweetened his offer to a first-round pick and Coleman and he wants a third to go with O’Brien. I call Sather to see if he can better that offer for O’Brien.

Tuesday, Feb. 20

Sather talks to me about O’Brien, and Pleau asks if I want to revisit the Tkachuk deal and make it bigger. We decide it’s not going to work, but we are interested in Bill Guerin. Sather tells me he’s got a good offer for Aaron Ward from another team.

Wednesday, Feb. 21

I call Montreal’s (GM) Bob Gainey and push him about whether he’s going to move any of his defensemen. Gainey says he’s unsure if he’s selling. Timing is beginning to be a problem. I decide to push on this, but I don’t get anywhere.

Sunday, Feb. 25

Tkachuk is finally traded to Atlanta for Glen Metropolit and first-, second- and third-round picks, plus another first-rounder if the Thrashers re-sign him. Davidson and GM Larry Pleau hit it out of the park on that one. We decide to trade O’Brien to Tampa Bay. We need the first-round pick to get into the card game. We felt comfortable making the deal because of the way Kent Huskins had played when he was called up. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe thinks he could have trouble re-signing Ryan Smyth. Would I be interested? He said he would want a “Tkachuk style package.” I say we can’t do it. Craig Rivet is traded to San Jose by Montreal, and I call and whine to Gainey about not calling me back and telling me he was available. He tells me that I was late to that party, and he had been talking to Doug Wilson for three weeks. Fair enough.

Monday, Feb. 26

Modin re-signs. While at a game in San Jose, I initiate a deal for Brad May via e-mail. I know him well and like his toughness.

Tuesday, Feb. 27

We were in on several trades. We offered a first and a fourth for Bill Guerin, but the Blues liked the Sharks’ deal better. (Los Angeles GM) Dean Lombardi talked to me about how Mattias Norstrom wanted to stay in southern California and I offered him a first-, second- and third-round pick, but I now believe he never intended to trade him to us. The Anaheim-Los Angeles rivalry is real. We looked at Bertuzzi, but the price was too high. I wanted to make a deal, but I stuck to draft picks. I told our younger players that I wouldn’t trade them and I kept my word. But I did get May. He’s a great character guy with a sunny disposition.

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    Submit your GFWE predictions here.

    It’s no secret that the Leafs’ biggest disappointment amid a conference-second-worst 15-20-9 first half of the schedule is a total lack of progress in the area of goals against and special teams, where Brian Burke focused much of his off-season efforts.

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      My Team Canada Roster selections may seem a little vanilla, but they’ve been selected to play out various situations. Penalty killing, power play and balance on all the forward units took precedent over sheer offensive/defensive ability.

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        No truer words ring out to the ears of the throng of fans and particularly management of the Leafs victory over the current GM’s former organization.

        And it took Alice in Chains to create them.

        Cali, you’re alright …..

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          The Maple Leafs finished as the league’s worst defensive team last season, giving up an astounding 286 goals, which works out to about 3.5 goals against a game. As such, much of the team’s summer remodeling took place on the blueline, which saw the departure of Kubina and the additions of shutdown defensemen  Beauchemin and Komisarek. With nearly $20M dollars committed per season through 2011 to the group of Kaberle, Komisarek, Beauchemin, Schenn and Finger, and Tomas being the only player above the age of 30, it appears on paper at least, that this will be the core of the defense for the foreseeable future. If that’s the case, how do they stack up against the rest of the league?

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            According to Andy Strickland the first draft-related move of this (almost) off-season has transpired.  Chris Pronger has been traded to the Los Angeles Kings for “a package including Jack Johnson and the 5th overall pick.”  Note that this is an unconfirmed rumor.  However, in the past Strickland has been very reliable.

            *EDIT*: Strickland has revised his stance slightly.  New blog link is up.

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              With just a little over two weeks until the draft, it’s time to turn our attention towards some of the favourites to go off the board first. Last year, a small group of about six players (Stamkos, Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo, Schenn and Filatov) managed to distinguish themselves from the rest of the class, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to pay a hefty price to move up. As we inch closer to the twenty-sixth, a trend is beginning to emerge that has the same five players at the top of every team’s draft board. Let’s meet the candidates.

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                As has been the case for most of this season, rookie defenseman Luke Schenn was one of the lone brights spots as the Toronto Maple Leafs came away with yet another disappointing result on Friday night against the Atlanta Thrashers. Schenn logged nearly 25 minutes of ice-time, 4 minutes on the PK, recorded an assist, made a brilliant defensive play on the Kovalchuk near-breakaway and threw in a couple of resounding hits for good measure. Among the 4 defensemen who logged 20+ minutes of ice-time (Kubina, Kaberle, Schenn, White), Luke was the only one not to finish with a minus rating.

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                  Today was the long-awaited day when Brian Burke was finally introduced to the Toronto media and fanbase. Highlighted below are several important quotes that stuck out to me as I listened to Burke outline his plans for building a championship calibre team here in the capital of the Hockey Universe:

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                    Months of uncertainty and speculation are likely to come to an end in the next week when Brian Burke and his associates meet with Richard Peddie and the MLSE. The groups have already spoken albeit lawyer to lawyer last weekend to confirm the Anaheim Ducks had signed papers allowing their former GM to talk with other teams and if reports are to be believed, groundwork was laid on the forthcoming negotiations.

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                      Sorry for the delay guys.  We greatly appreciate the flood of great questions and comments, and are sorry to say we couldn’t get to them all. We’ve all been pretty busy lately for a variety of reasons, so without any further ado, let’s get started on the 1st ever Maple Leafs HotStove Hockey Panel Discussion.

                      Forming our panel for this session is Alec Brownscombe of Hockeybuzz and MLHS godfather, Gus Katsaros of Mckeen’s and MLHS fantasy expert, and myself, Alex Tran, an MLHS blogger.